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My Florida C F O

Dear Fellow Floridians:

Recently, a cyber-security breach happened that affected the national health insurance company Anthem, Inc., whose largest Florida subsidiary is Amerigroup. In response to this incident, our department has taken proactive steps to provide consumer information related to potential scams that may arise as a result of this data breach.

Our Consumer Helpline, which provides consumer information on insurance-related matters, has added information on the breach to its Consumer Alerts web page, and has allocated resources to accommodate your calls about this topic.

While Anthem, Inc. is working to determine which policyholders may have been impacted by the breach, it is important to note that Anthem will only contact impacted members by written communications via postal mail, not by phone or electronic communications. The company has announced plans to begin mailing letters in the coming weeks.

To protect yourself from any potential scam, do not provide personal or financial information to persons claiming to be Anthem representatives via email or by phone. If a call or email comes in:

  • DO NOT click on any links or attachments contained within the email message.
  • DO NOT reply to the email or reach out to the senders in any way.
  • DO NOT supply any personal information online or by phone.

Amerigroup policyholders may wish to proactively monitor their credit and bank accounts, and consider contacting the credit bureaus Equifax, TransUnion and Experian to add a fraud alert to their accounts, which would require an additional layer of identity verification before processing any new credit applications.

Anthem will provide free credit monitoring services to those who were impacted by the data breach. For more information or questions related to the breach, please call Anthem’s toll-free hotline at 1-877-263-7995 or visit www.anthemfacts.com, a website specifically set up to address the breach.

Floridians with questions may contact the Consumer Helpline by calling 1-877-MY-FL-CFO, or 1-877-693-5236, available Monday – Friday from 8:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m. EST.

I am proud to offer these layers of consumer protection, and to work hard each day to ensure that all of Florida’s consumers have the information they need to make informed financial and insurance decisions.

Jeff
Jeff Atwater
Chief Financial Officer
State of Florida

News of Interest

Sun-Sentinel: Florida construction jobs growing as economy rebounds

Orlando Business Journal: Florida is home to 2.2 million small businesses

Orlando Business Journal: Orlando a top mortgage market in Florida for 2014

Forbes: Franchising: An opportunity for veteran entrepreneurs

Gallup: Small-business owners' optimism highest since 2008

Palm Beach Post: Job growth continues as U.S. economy adds 257,000 jobs

February is Black History Month

Each week this month, we will be featuring one prominent African-American leader and Frank L. Gillespiehighlighting his or her contributions to our country.

Frank L. Gillespie, Supreme Liberty Life Insurance Company, Chicago

Frank L. Gillespie founded Supreme Liberty Life Insurance Company in 1919 after working at a white insurance firm and noticing the lack of options for black Chicagoans. Supreme Liberty Life Insurance was successful despite the Great Depression, and expanded with branch offices in Michigan, Kentucky, Missouri, and Washington, D.C. It grew to be one of the largest insurance companies for serving minorities in the country.

License Revocation and $140,000 Fine for Fort Myers Insurance Agent’s Misrepresentations to Florida Seniors

Division of Agent & Agency Services Badge Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater recently announced the revocation of Fort Myers insurance agent Gregory Sample’s license after an investigation revealed that Sample engaged in unethical and illegal business practices that ultimately duped several of his clients, most of whom are seniors, to lose money from their annuity contracts. In addition to having his license revoked, the action will render Sample permanently barred from both direct and indirect participation of any kind in the insurance industry and ordered to pay a $140,000 fine.

"Insurance scams are far too common, often targeting seniors. The vast majority of agents are honest, but there are some who manipulate products and sales pitches in their favor," said Greg Thomas, Director of the Division of Agents & Agency Services. "Agents may have a financial incentive when they make a sale. Our division works to hold insurance agents in our state accountable and protect consumers."

The investigation, conducted by the Division of Agent & Agency Services, addressed allegations that Sample made false statements on annuity documents and during the negotiation of annuity sales, and recommended unsuitable annuity exchange transactions to clients of his Fort Myers financial services business. By preying on the trusting nature of seniors, including offering luncheon seminars, Sample’s clients were deceived into believing they were making sound financial decisions, when in actuality, the only person profiting off the transactions was Sample himself. The Division of Administrative Hearings determined that he made willful misrepresentations and is not trustworthy. Sample has appealed the ruling.

Sample’s alleged schemes include:

  • Knowingly misleading an elderly female consumer regarding applicable charges associated to the surrender of an annuity contract, causing the consumer to incur several thousands of dollars in fines and fees, and ultimately causing the consumer to lose more than $70,000 in death benefit funds the consumer had set aside specifically as inheritance funds for her granddaughter. By doing so, Sample profited personally from commissions he obtained.

  • In three unrelated instances, Sample convinced two Florida couples and a single elderly woman to sign blank or incomplete forms, which he later filled in with false information. By willfully misrepresenting the couples' available assets and discretionary income, Sample was able to pass the applicable underwriting standards and receive a commission from the sale of those annuities that were not justly issued.

The Department has and will continue to work with the consumers and companies involved to ensure that the consumers are made whole after their tragic ordeals. The Department also takes this opportunity to remind all annuity purchasers to carefully review applications and forms to ensure the forms are fully and accurately completed before signing them. Any consumer who feels they have been misled or deceived by an agent’s action is urged to contact the Department by calling the Consumer Insurance Helpline at 1-877-693–5236.

Florida Economic Briefs

Retail activity continues to climb in Florida
Retail activity has increased 7.6 over the year. Retail activity is derived from taxable sales, and is used as an indicator of regional economic activity. Consumer Durables saw the highest year-over-year increase (9%), followed by Consumer Nondurables (8.6%), and Building Investment (8.1%).
Source: Office of Economic and Demographic Research

U.S. unemployment rate increases in January
The U.S. unemployment rate increased to 5.7 percent in January, up 0.1 percentage points from December (5.6%). Florida’s January unemployment rate will be released on March 17, and was 5.6 percent in December. The delay between state and national unemployment rate releases is due to the fact that state unemployment rates require more data and processing time.
Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics

Outlook on 2015

This issue of Florida’s Bottom Line highlights opportunities that lie ahead of us in the coming year, as well as issues from 2014. It includes economic forecasts and expert analysis on Florida from leading economists, and insightful outlooks on key industries from the industry leaders themselves.

Industry Outlooks for 2015:

Nancy Bryan, President and CEO of BioSciences: The life sciences is a vibrant and critical component of our state’s economy. Florida has made great progress and is now recognized as a leading hub with world-renowned universities and research institutes, award-winning incubators and research parks, and a growing base of emerging and established companies in the biotech, pharmaceutical, medical device and bioagriculture fields.

This next year promises to be very exciting with significant opportunity to leverage this infrastructure to drive investment, scientific and business innovation and growth. Recently, we have seen increases in venture funding and companies expanding across the state. These trends will continue in 2015 with additional companies choosing to locate in Florida and existing companies expanding their operations. This growth positively impacts the economy, job creation and ultimately improves health. Read more.

Fostering Financial Prosperity